The Count De St Germain Sage Prophet And Magician

Superior to Cagliostro, even in accomplishments, and second to him in

notoriety only, was that human nondescript, the so-called Count de St.

Germain, whom Fredrick the Great called, "a man no one has ever been

able to make out."

The Marquis de Crequy declares that St. Germain was an Alsatian Jew,

Simon Wolff by name, and born at Strasburg about the close of the

seventeenth or the beginning of the eighteen
h century; others insist

that he was a Spanish Jesuit named Aymar; and others again intimate that

his true title was the Marquis de Betmar, and that he was a native of

Portugal. The most plausible theory, however, makes him the natural son

of an Italian princess, and fixes his birth at San Germano, in Savoy,

about the year 1710; his ostensible father being one Rotondo, a

tax-collector of that district.

This supposition is borne out by the fact that he spoke all his many

languages with an Italian accent. It was about the year 1750 that he

first began to be heard of in Europe as the Count St. Germain, and put

forth the astounding pretensions that soon gave him celebrity over the

whole continent. The celebrated Marquis de Belleisle made his

acquaintance about that time in Germany, and brought him to Paris, where

he was introduced to Madame de Pompadour, whose favor he very quickly

gained. The influence of that famous beauty was just then paramount with

Louis XV, and the Count was soon one of the most eminent men at court.

He was remarkably handsome--as an old portrait at Friersdorf, in Saxony,

in the rooms he once occupied, sufficiently indicated; and his musical

accomplishments, added to the ineffable charm of his manners and

conversation, and the miracles he performed, rendered him an

irresistible attraction, especially to the ladies, who appear to have

almost idolized him. Endowed with an enchanting voice, he could also

play every instrument then in vogue, but especially excelled upon the

violin, which he could handle in such a manner as to give it the effect

of a small orchestra. Cotemporary writers declare that, in his more

ordinary performances, a connoisseur could distinctly hear the separate

tones of a full quartet when the count was extemporizing on his favorite

Cremona. His little work, entitled "La Musique Raisonnee," published in

England, for private circulation only, bears testimony to his musical

genius, and to the wondrous eccentricity, as well as beauty, of his

conceptions. But it was in alectromancy, or divination by signs and

circles; hydromancy, or divination by water; cleidomancy, or divination

by the key, and dactylomancy, or divination by the fingers, that the

count chiefly excelled, although he, at the same time, professed

alchemy, astrology, and prophecy in the higher branches.

The fortunes of the Count St. Germain rose so rapidly in France, that in

1760 he was sent by Louis XV, to the Court of England, to assist in

negotiations for a peace. M. de Choiseul, then Prime Minister of France,

however, greatly feared and detested the Count; and secretly wrote to

Pitt, begging the latter to have that personage arrested, as he was

certainly a Russian spy. But St. Germain, through his attendant sprites,

of course, received timely warning, and escaped to the Continent. In

England, he was the inseparable friend of Prince Lobkowitz--a

circumstance that gave some color to his alleged connection with the

Russians. His sojourn there was equally distinguished by his devotion to

the ladies, and his unwavering success at the gaming-table, where he won

fabulous sums, which were afterward dispensed with imperial munificence.

It was there, too, that he put forward his claims to the highest rank in

Masonry; and, of course, added, thereby, immensely to the eclat of his

position. He spoke English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian,

German, Russian, Polish, the Scandinavian, and many of the Oriental

tongues, with equal fluency; and pretended to have traveled over the

whole earth, and even to have visited the most distant starry orbs

frequently, in the course of a lifetime which, with continual

transmigrations, he declared to have lasted for thousands of years. His

birth, he said, had been in Chaldea, in the dawn of time; and that he

was the sole inheritor of the lost sciences and mysteries of his own and

the Egyptian race. He spoke of his personal intimacy with all the twelve

Apostles--and even the august presence of the Savior; and one of his

pretensions would have been most singularly amusing, had it not bordered

upon profanity. This was no less an assertion than that he had upon

several occasions remonstrated with the Apostle Peter upon the

irritability of his temperament! In regard to later periods of history,

he spoke with the careless ease of an every-day looker on; and told

anecdotes that the researches of scholars afterwards fully verified. His

predictions were, indeed, most startling; and the cotemporaneous

evidence is very strong and explicit, that he did foretell the time,

place, and manner of the death of Louis XV, several years before it

occurred. His gift of memory was perfectly amazing. Having once read a

journal of the day, he could repeat its contents accurately, from

beginning to end; and to this endowment he united the faculty of writing

with both hands, in characters like copperplate. Thus, he could indite a

love-letter with his right while he composed a verse with his left hand,

and, apparently, with the utmost facility--a splendid acquisition for

the Treasury Department or a literary newspaper! He would, however, have

been ineligible for any faithful Post Office, since he read the contents

of sealed letters at a glance; and, by his clairvoyant powers, detected

crime, or, in fact, the movements of men and the phenomena of nature, at

any distance. Like all the great Magi, and Brothers of the Rosy Cross,

of whom he claimed to be a shining light, he most excelled in medicine;

and along with remedies for "every ill that flesh is heir to," boasted

his "Aqua Benedetta" as the genuine elixir of life, capable of restoring

youth to age, beauty and strength to decay, and brilliant intellect to

the exhausted brain; and, if properly applied, protracting human

existence through countless centuries. As a proof of its virtues, he

pointed to his own youthful appearance, and the testimony of old men who

had seen him sixty or seventy years earlier, and who declared that time

had made no impression on him. Strangely enough, the Margrave of

Anspach, of whom I shall presently speak, purchased what purported to be

the recipe of the "Aqua Benedetta," from John Dyke, the English Consul

at Leghorn, towards the close of the last century; and copies of it are

still preserved with religious care and the utmost secrecy by certain

noble families in Berlin and Vienna, where the preparation has been used

(as they believe) with perfect success against a host of diseases.

Still another peculiarity of the Count would be highly advantageous to

any of us, particularly at this period of high prices and culinary

scarcity. He never ate nor drank; or, at least, he was never seen to do

so! It is said that boarding house regime in these days is rapidly

accustoming a considerable class of our fellow-citizens to a similar

condition, but I can scarcely believe it.

Again, the Count would fall into cataleptic swoons, which continued

often for hours, and even days; and, during these periods, he declared

that he visited, in spirit, the most remote regions of the earth, and

even the farthest stars, and would relate, with astonishing power, the

scenes he there had witnessed!

He, of course, laid claim to the transmutation of baser metals into

gold, and stated that, in 1755, while on a visit to India, to consult

the erudition of the Hindoo Brahmins, he solved, by their assistance,

the problem of the artificial crystallization of pure carbon--or, in

other words, the production of diamonds! One thing is certain, viz.:

that upon a visit to the French ambassador to the Hague, in 1780, he, in

the presence of that functionary, induced him to believe and testify

that he broke to pieces, with a hammer, a superb diamond, of his own

manufacture, the exact counterpart of another, of similar origin, which

he had just sold for 5,500 louis d'or.

His career and transformations on the Continent were multiform. In 1762,

he was mixed up with the dynastic conspiracies and changes at St.

Petersburg; and his importance there was indicated ten years later, by

the reception given to him at Vienna by the Russian Count Orloff, who

accosted him joyously as "caro padre" (dear father,) and gave him twenty

thousand golden Venetian sequins.

From Petersburg he went to Berlin, where he at once attracted the

attention of Frederick the Great, who questioned Voltaire about him; the

latter replying, as it is said, that he was a man who knew all things,

and would live to the end of the world--a fair statement, in brief, of

the position assumed by more than one of our ward politicians!

In 1774, he took up his abode at Schwabach, in Germany, under the name

of Count Tzarogy, which is a transposition of Ragotzy, a well-known

noble name. The Margrave of Anspach met him at the house of his

favorite Clairon, the actress, and became so fond of him, that he

insisted upon his company to Italy. On his return, he went to Dresden,

Leipzig, and Hamburg, and finally to Eckernfiorde, in Schleswig, where

he took up his residence with the Landgrave Karl of Hesse; and at

length, in 1783, tired, as he said, of life, and disdaining any longer

immortality, he gave up the ghost.

It was during St. Germain's residence in Schleswig that he was visited

by the renowned Cagliostro, who openly acknowledged him as master, and

learned many of his most precious secrets from him--among others, the

faculty of discriminating the character by the handwriting, and of

fascinating birds, animals, and reptiles.

To trace the wanderings of St. Germain is a difficult task, as he had

innumerable aliases, and often totally disappeared for months together.

In Venice, he was known as the Count de Bellamare; at Pisa, as the

Chevalier de Schoening; at Milan, as the Chevalier Welldone; at Genoa,

as the Count Soltikow, etc.

In all these journeys, his own personal tastes were quiet and simple,

and he manifested more attachment for a pocket-copy of Guarini's "Pastor

Fido"--his only library--than for any other object in his possession.

On the whole, the Count de St. Germain was a man of magnificent

attainments, but the use he made of his talents proved him to be also a

most magnificent humbug.